Last night was my last class before leaving for vacation to Mexico. As I’ve stated before, with each class I feel like I am improving, if only by small increments. The class was focused on conditioning, it was hard, but my spirit didn’t break.
One of the exercises we were working on was blocking and countering. This drill conditions your forearm, helps you anticipate punches and be reactive with your response. As well we worked on maneuvering from the impact while utilizing the opponents force. This reminded me of something I had read about called tai sabaki. Tai sabaki (体捌き) is a term from Japanese martial arts and which relates to ‘whole body movement’, or repositioning. It can be translated as body-management.
We spent many rounds of partner drills, and while it was working for me, my forearms were becoming battered. Under the watchful eye of Fogarasi Sensei, he offered me advice that changed my approach and immediately improved my blocking. Stepping in to work with my partner to demonstrate, Sensei told me to imagine the punches coming as rocks within a riverbed. As the water intercepts the rocks, it flows around them with the least resistance. Rather than imposing my will and strength, as the punch comes and I intercept it, redirect it and reposition utilizing the opponents own force. It works.
Another important lesson that Sensei gave to all of us was to be grounded. Many of us, especially more junior students like myself, can become frazzled while sparring. Sensei spoke about the importance of taking the time to feel the floor under you. The earth under you. To grip it with your feet, your toes. To root yourself as a mountain. The effect it has can be quite dramatic. It calms the mind, refocuses your intention and boost your courage. This advice is not only great for the dojo, but in any situation in life. When stress at work is getting to you and you might feel like being reactionary, taking the time to ground and root yourself might just give you a better perspective. Even the image of yourself as a mountain is strengthening.
The biggest challenge I am having, which I knew would be going into Kyokushin, was the calming of the mind and spirit. I am really glad that this seems to be an important area of development for Sensei as well. It’s something that will help me inside and outside of the dojo.